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PoliticsJune 17, 2021

Live updates, June 17: Recession averted as GDP rises, vaccine rollout plan outlined


Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for June 17, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

12.35pm: Age cohorts to be used for next vaccine rollout stage

The PM has set out the timeline on when those aged 16 and up can get a Covid-19 vaccination, and confirmed that it will be rolled out through age cohorts.

Jacinda Ardern said the priority over the next five weeks would focus on getting everyone over age 65 vaccinated, a cohort of more than a million people. “Different DHBs are in different stages of moving through this, and I can assure you they’re making progress, and we will reach everyone,” said Ardern.

From the end of July, the bulk of vaccines are expected to be delivered to the country. “We know we’ll be receiving more vaccine than we have to date, but we still won’t get all of our supply at once,” said Ardern. Weekly deliveries will take place, with four weeks notice for how big each shipment will be.

The vaccine campaign will last until the end of the year, and will be staggered.

The process will start with those aged 60 and over, starting on July 28. People aged 55 and up will be invited to book from August 11.

“From here, the rollout is indicative, as we wait for exact details from our supplier,” said Ardern. She said those aged 45 and over are likely to be invited to book a vaccination from late August, aged 35 and up from mid-September, and everyone else will become eligible from October.

“I should add that once your age bracket is announced, there’s no cutoff,” said Ardern, saying that it is preferred people book their vaccines “the sooner the better”.

There will be some exceptions to this programme, particularly around convenience and ease of vaccination.

From August, worksites will be used for large workforces that might be harder to reach. Ardern indicated Fonterra and Mainfreight had indicated their willingness to be involved.

There will also be “examples of rural or isolated communities, where it just makes sense to vaccinate the whole population at once,” said Ardern.

In response, National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop said the rollout is not fast enough, and that the community would continue to be vulnerable for too long.

“This was meant to be the ‘Year of the Vaccine’ but just like the ‘Year of Delivery’ resulted in the KiwiBuild and light rail fiasco, the vaccination roll-out is failing,” said Bishop.

“We are dead last in the OECD in terms of vaccinations administered per 100 people, and 120th in the world. Far from being at the front of the queue, we are at the back.”

The booking system:

Ardern also outlined the system that will be used to manage bookings, with invites being sent out via email, text and phone.

The invitation will ask people to use a platform called Book My Vaccine. “It’s an easy to use, accessible tool,” said Ardern. People will book both doses at the same time, with a three-week gap between them.

There will also be a phone line, for those who don’t use internet services.

Ardern said the ministry is anticipating some people won’t receive their invites, but the programme will be accompanied by an advertising campaign, to make people aware of when their turn has come up.

She added that as it was the “largest and most complex” vaccination operation ever run in New Zealand, so improvements are likely to be made during the process.

What will the rollout mean for the border? 

One of the major questions around the tail end of the vaccine rollout is when it will mean border restrictions can be loosened.

PM Ardern said experts are currently being asked for their views on when that loosening can safely take place.

She would not give a number at this stage on what percentage of the country being vaccinated would mean that could be opened up, but did say there would be a range of factors taken into account for different scenarios.

“Having a large proportion of our population vaccinated… gives us the greatest amount of freedom and opportunity. I think it’s everyone’s goal in New Zealand to live without a state of fear that we’re going to have another lockdown,” said Ardern.

12.20pm: ‘Indeterminate test on Stewart Island being investigated

In today’s health ministry release, it has been revealed a person with an indeterminate test result for Covid-19 in Stewart Island is under investigation to determine whether they are a case or not.

A subsequent repeat test was negative, and serology testing later today will give a clearer picture.

Precautionary steps have been taken, and the person’s family have all returned negative tests.

Meanwhile, the two people with Covid-19 who were being treated at Middlemore Hospital have now been discharged and taken back to Auckland’s quarantine facility.

There are two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation today, and none in the community.

11.30am: Trans-Tasman bubble with Victoria to reopen next Wednesday

Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins has announced restrictions on quarantine-free travel with Melbourne will be extended until 11.59pm Tuesday 22 June, and will then lift.

“It has been determined that the risk to public health in New Zealand continues to decrease and, at this time, public health officials consider it unlikely there is further widespread community transmission in the state,” said Hipkins. “However, in line with our precautionary approach we consider this short extension to be prudent.”

This may be reviewed if the situation on the ground in Australia changes, and further information on cases announced yesterday in New South Wales is expected to be released today.

11.10am: Recession averted as GDP rises

Stats NZ says Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has risen 1.6% for the March quarter, meaning a recession has been averted. However, for the year overall GDP is down 2.3% for the year ending March 2021.

Recessions are defined by two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, and the December quarter saw a 1.0% fall.

“After an easing of economic activity in the December quarter, we’ve seen broad-based growth in the first quarter of 2021. This is despite Auckland being in alert level 3 lockdown for 10 days, and continued border restrictions,” said Stats NZ national accounts senior manager Paul Pascoe.

The services industry in particular led the charge, said Pascoe.

“Households spent more on accommodation, eating out, and purchasing big ticket items such as furniture, audio visual equipment, and motor vehicles. This helped support the growth in retail trade and accommodation industry and wholesale trade industry.”

Construction also rebounded, after contracting in the December quarter.

Traditionally, the March quarter has been the time when international tourism has the greatest effect, however that hasn’t been the case in 2021, given the Covid-closed borders. The opening of the travel bubble with Australia won’t be reflected until the next round of figures.

Kiwibank chief economist Jarrod Kerr said the figures “exceeded our best guesses, and showed the Kiwi economy survived the summer without tourists.”

“So we begin the year on a much firmer footing. Looking ahead, the recovery in economic activity is expected to continue in the June quarter. Annual numbers will look particularly plump given the base effects in play, when the economy shrank a record 12% this time last year,” said Kerr.

He also said in light of the figures, wholesale interest rates are now looking “too low”. The official cash rate was slashed by the Reserve Bank last year to stimulate economic activity amid the initial Covid shock.

“The 1.6% came in well in excess of the Reserve Bank’s forecast of another quarterly dip (-0.6%). As the markets digest today’s strong report, we may see expectations shift toward an earlier lift-off in the OCR than the Reserve Bank has schedule. If data continues to paint a healthy picture of the economy, our May ’22 hike start date looks increasingly likely,” said Kerr.

“One key downside is of course another Covid community outbreak. Until herd immunity is achieved, the primary threat to the Kiwi economy will continue to be an outbreak of the virus, necessitating a tightening in alert levels.”

9.40am: Wellington Spatial Plan abandons more inner-city density

More of Wellington City will have “character precinct” protections applied in the new spatial plan, which means in practice it will become much more difficult to intensify density.

The Dominion Post reports the spatial plan allows for about 22,000 more people to be housed over the next 30 years – however, that is well below population projections for the same period, let alone the high existing pressure on housing demand.

There has been intense lobbying in favour of character protection from groups like Historic Places Wellington, whose chair Felicity Wong likened existing development plans to “carpet bombing”, before those plans were watered down.

In contrast, the urbanist lobby group A City For People believes the spatial plan will only encourage young people to abandon Wellington, with spokesperson Eleanor West saying “our councillors talk about having a good, diverse culture here and keeping that – but we’ve already lost it. So many people are moving away.”

Councillors will debate the spatial plan and vote on it next week.

9.15am: 121 new cases in Fiji

121 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed alongside two new clusters in Fiji, reports RNZ Pacific.

61 of the cases have been linked to existing clusters, and in total there have been 1,373 cases in the outbreak, which started in April.

Several days ago, the Fijian government confirmed that the outbreak was being caused by the “Delta Variant” – first seen in India – which is considered to be a more dangerous form of Covid-19.

7.55am: Government smuggling unmarked spon-con through NZME

Both the government and media company NZME have been pinged for running paid stories without a disclaimer, reports Stuff’s Henry Cooke.

Government housing developer Kāinga Ora paid NZME’s OneRoof $25,000 a month for unmarked sponsored content, with a disclaimer only being added after media enquiries.

It was uncovered by National’s housing spokesperson Nicola Willis, who said “it wouldn’t have taken much for one of the many comms staff at Kāinga Ora to go online and see these are and see they are misleading.”

A spokesperson for Kāinga Ora has pointed the finger at NZME, saying “while OneRoof has the responsibility for making sure users of its website know where the information comes from and is appropriately attributed, Kāinga Ora will check with the relevant people at NZME to make sure this is being done.”

Note: The Spinoff publishes paid content in association with our partners. We always mark it as such. 

7.35am: Several MIQ breaches revealed

Twelve people attempted to break the rules of managed isolation in an Auckland hotel over the weekend, in three different groups.

The NZ Herald’s Vaimoana Tapalaeo reports the full dozen are now in complete isolation, and will remain so until returning negative tests.

The breaches weren’t an attempt to escape altogether – rather they were moving between rooms, and sitting and talking in the halls without masks on.

All twelve people involved had arrived from Sāmoa on June 11. MIQ boss Brigadier Rose King said it was “incredibly disappointing.”

Top stories from The Bulletin:

Trade minister Damien O’Connor is currently in the UK, seeking to make things happen on free trade agreements with both the United Kingdom and the European Union. And there are some “tricky issues” to get through, according to the minister. Rural News Group reports that agriculture – a perennial sticking point for NZ trade – is likely to be one of them. The negotiations have dragged on for a long time, with the UK now into the 5th round of talks, and the EU into the 11th round.

O’Connor’s trip is the first major overseas mission by a minister since Covid started, and he told Rural News “I hope that by undertaking this trip in difficult Covid times will demonstrate to them the importance we place on both these agreements.” Beyond the FTAs though, it appears his priority as trade minister will be working out more sector-specific agreements. Just before leaving, O’Connor told Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva that it makes more sense to build on areas of agreement, rather than getting bogged down in what countries don’t agree on. Incidentally that whole interview is a really insightful look at New Zealand’s place in the trading world right now.

When it comes to exporting to Britain, Australia appeared to score a big win this week. PMs Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson announced an agreement had been reached, and the Guardian reports it involves some wins for Australian meat farmers, with tariffs to be eliminated over a decade. Dairy tariffs will go in five years. That’s potentially similar to what New Zealand’s negotiators are hoping for – we’ll have to wait and see whether Australia’s success in this area means anything for the New Zealand government’s chances.

An in-principle agreement has been made to give the Reserve Bank “debt serviceability” tools, which could potentially restrict some real estate lending. Interest reports it isn’t a done deal yet, with various feasibility and consultation rounds to go through. Finance minister Grant Robertson is also keen to make sure first home buyers aren’t impacted. But the move underlines noises governor Adrian Orr has been making recently with regards to highly leveraged homeowners, and their ability to maintain their mortgage payments. Basically, the RBNZ sees risk right now to the stability of the financial system because of high levels of mortgage debt.

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